Rachel Rowney cooks with Kassia Emily Fiedor, the author of ‘Cocina Holistica: Plant-Powered Recipes Inspired by Guatemalan Superfoods’…
Kassia Emily Fiedor opens the introduction of her cookbook ‘Cocina Holistica: Plant-Powered Recipes Inspired by Guatemalan Superfoods’ with the following question: “Why a cookbook about Guatemala?” This central American country, bordered by Mexico, Belize and El Salvador, might not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of cuisine, but as Kassia explains to me, “I want people to learn about the magic of Guatemala.”
Kassia studied to be a holistic nutritionist and herbalist in her native California, where she understood the importance of using natural ingredients in her recipes, before moving to Guatemala and working as a private chef. “A big part of my life in Guatemala was recognizing the many superfoods that are native or cultivated there – and reminding Guatemalans of this abundance in their country!” After an acquaintance in the Guatemalan food scene suggested she write a cookbook, Kassia began to curate her recipes. “Guatemala is such an abundant country and I wanted to create more awareness around that. I started recipe testing and farm trips, connecting with the farmers and artisans that were involved in the organic or ancestral foods movement.”
Kassia explains in her book that to her, the meaning of ‘holistic’ is supporting health with “high quality, organic, local food grown with love [while] also supporting the planet.”
It was for this reason that I jumped at the chance to spend the day cooking with Kassia, learning about her journey writing this book and trying out her culinary creations. After reading through her book, which features everything from ferments to soups, we decided to make her ‘Cozy Butternut Squash Casserole’ with nutmeg cashew cream, and the cashew ‘queso’ dip. The two recipes that we cooked together both utilized cashew nuts, which are often found in markets across the region, sold alongside the fruit that grows the nut itself: the cashew apple. Kassia explains that this fruit is often eaten in Guatemala and is thought to have properties that aid stomach problems and digestion. “Cashews grow all over Guatemala, and obviously we love them in the US. All of my food is very nutrient-dense, which means that you try and pack in as many nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants as you can to one bite. You want to be eating food that is nourishing you with every bite! It’s all about the quality over quantity. Cashews have great healthy fats in them, with so many vitamins and nutrients. You don’t need a lot, they are very filling and dense with nourishment.”
The two dishes we cook together are simple to make and absolutely delicious. Kassia hopes to use these recipes as inspiration when working with private clients and hosting cooking classes in Nashville. When it comes to her favorite recipe in the book, Kassia points to the ‘Green Mango Coco Salad’ and says that this dish was a result of inspiration from a salad found on the other side of the world. “This [recipe] was a result of me playing around with green mango, which is unripe, it’s hard and green. [Farmers] have it at the markets when it starts to come into season, so I thought I would try and create a salad with it, just like they do Papaya salad in Thailand. You peel the mango, and julienne it into noodles and shred it. It’s like a sweet, sour apple. It’s a really exotic, tropical flavor that I mix with fresh coconut, and you serve that with a tart, zesty, cashew sauce.”
Kassia is keen to point out that all the ingredients in the book, although native to Guatemala, can be found within most stores in the US. As more and more people become attuned to the importance of using organic ingredients, her book introduces a number of different recipes and approaches to food that she has discovered in her time in Guatemala and her experiences in holistic nutrition. “The book is a reflection of me, and all of the knowledge that I have developed, living in different countries, growing up in California, and healing people through my cooking. I realized people are in need of deep nourishment. The book has nutritional tidbits in it, anecdotes of my life, my story, and I think that my passion comes through, especially for holistic nutrition and healing food; food as medicine.”
Kassia will be taking part in the Nashville Health & Wellness Fest on June 1. To find out more about the event and to book your ticket, click here.